During the 2015 general election campaign, Ed Miliband suffered from a major – and very understandable – public perception problem: everyone thought he was weak. To prove his balls, the Labour Party leader claimed to have stopped a war. He told Jeremy Paxman in a leader’s debate:
“This government proposed action in Syria. The bombing of Syria, right? I was called into a room by David Cameron and Nick Clegg, because president Obama had been on the phone – the leader of the free world, right? I listened to what they said, and over those days I made up my mind, and we said no, right? I think standing up to the leader of the free world shows a certain toughness I would say.”
This was Ed Miliband’s ‘I’m-tough-enough’ pitch: ‘I’m tough because I opposed military action in Syria…’
Ed Miliband did successfully sabotage British government intervention in Syria – however the way he went about it was anything but tough or principled. On Thursday August 29, 2013, Miliband derailed David Cameron’s plan for UK airstrikes on Assad targets by majority of 13 votes. During an eight hour debate, the former Prime Minister’s voice faltered and he looked moved to tears when describing horrific videos showing the victims of Assad’s chemical attacks writhing in agony. Tough-as-nails Milband said of the emotional Prime Minister: “I believe he has to make a better case than he did today”…
This was a betrayal and hypocrisy. When Miliband was first “called into a room” with David Cameron, he gave the Prime Minister his assurance that if he could appease Labour backbenchers then he would support military action. Over the week that followed Miliband prevaricated on that decision, asked for concession after concession, and – as was briefed to the Guardian – generally “buggered around” the government. Miliband led Downing Street on a merry dance during a time of crisis and uncertainty:
- Miliband said he wanted to see the government’s legal advice. Cameron published it.
- Miliband said Britain must go to the UN and also get weapons inspectors’ reports. Cameron did.
- Miliband said he wanted two votes before military strikes. Cameron agreed to two votes.
At the eleventh hour, when the level of backbench disquiet became clear during a shadow cabinet meeting, Miliband changed his mind. He shafted the Prime Minister by phone the night before the crucial vote. As was pointed out at the time: “His overriding concern was the internal politics of the Labour Party”…
On Friday Ed Miliband appeared on Channel 4’s The Last Leg. He danced in a stupid skit to A-ha’s classic Take On Me. Miliband said on the show:
“The horrible scenes, ghastly scenes… obviously make me think about it [whether blocking military action was the right decision], I have thought a lot about it and whether it was the right thing to do but I think in the end, in my heart of hearts I do feel it was.”
Ed Miliband still uses his Syria sabotage to claim he’s tough. As he was during that crucial week in 2013, Miliband is still dancing whilst Syria burns…